In 1967, the Israeli military forcibly took part of Abu Hamed al-Zaru’s land (63 dunams), calling itself the custodian. The military forced the Palestinian population living near what became the settlement of Kiryat Arba to sign a rental agreement for land on which it installed communications towers in 1971. This agreement also made it possible for Kiryat Arba to begin construction, because it helped set in place infrastructure for the settlement.
Nine years ago, settlers erected an illegal outpost* on Abu Hamden’s land. About one year ago, settlers began entering his land, destroying his crops (primarily olive trees). These incidents have increased in frequency. Settlers have cut fifty percent of his 130 olive trees. When an olive tree is cut, it will take ten years for it to bear fruit again.
When Abu Hamed has confronted with settlers, they have stoned him and sprayed teargas from a can into his face.
The most recent incident involved a large number of schoolchildren from the Kiryat Arba settlement, accompanied by Israeli soldiers, entering his land on the Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat. Carrying Israeli flags and singing, they planted trees on Abu Hamden’s land while he and his family looked on, able to do nothing to defend their land.
Abu Hamed is working with Rabbis for Human Rights as legal representatives to pursue remedies in the courts. Using the Ministry of Agriculture to report damage, he now has two choices:
1)File a claim against army for damages the settlers have caused; knowing this process will be short with a very small settlement.
2.) Go to court against the Israeli army, for which the process will be longer but with the prospect of a larger settlement.
And of course, he may not be successful with either claim.
*According to the Geneva conventions all Israel settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories are illegal; most settlement outposts are illegal under Israeli law.